On Wednesday, National Hockey League (NHL) Commissioner Gary Bettman announced that the league had granted an expansion to include a franchise from Las Vegas.
The new team will compete as the 31st team, starting in the 2017-18 season, and become the first expansion team since the Columbus Blue Jackets and Minnesota Wild in 2000-01.
To mark this news, we caught up with Jay Kornegay, Vice President of the Westgate Resort & Casino, to discuss the reaction from people in Las Vegas:
SBC: Hi Jay. As the first expansion to the NHL in 15 years, are you excited about this?
JK: Absolutely. I’ve been living in Las Vegas for almost 30 years and have seen many “proposals” come and go. Many used Las Vegas as a pawn to get a better deal in their current city. I give Bill Foley all the credit in the world for his hard work and time he dedicated in taking this to fruition.
SBC: In general, are the bookmakers in Las Vegas happy to see this happen?
JK: Unquestionably. First, most of us are Las Vegans and very excited about our first pro franchise. Secondly, it will benefit the industry in many ways. The new franchise will have a positive ripple effect on many different areas in our city, including the airport, restaurants, hotels, and of course the sports books. I don’t think it will make a huge splash at the books, but fans will able to enjoy something here they can’t experience anywhere else.
SBC: Do you think the Las Vegas population will get behind this new team?
JK: Yes. I was here when the Las Vegas Thunder played in the Thomas & Mack. They drew large crowds on a regular basis. The city has already dedicated deposits for 15,000 season tickets. I do believe the team will need to be a consistent competitor to keep fans in the T-Mobile arena. By the way, the T-Mobile arena and the immediate venue is state of the art and makes going to a hockey game a complete experience.
SBC: Is there a preference amongst the people for the new team name?
JK: I’m in favour of the Knights. I think Las Vegas Knights has a great double meaning and the marketability is tremendous.
Jay Kornegay, Vice President of the Westgate Las Vegas Resort & Casino.